Greg Abbott: Fixing Texas’ education system from ground up

By Greg Abbott

535aff1e3251c.preview-300The opportunity for a better tomorrow begins with education. To continue to grow jobs here and educate the workforce of tomorrow, we must ensure every student in McAllen, Mission and Edinburg area schools graduates prepared to succeed.To do that, we must build a better education system.

As governor, I will return control of our schools to the districts and the communities served. I will improve parental involvement by expanding transparency and choice. I will ensure teachers have the training they need to succeed and that they are being led by the most effective principals.

Our public education system is too centralized. One-size-fits-all solutions are pushed down from the top. We have too many unnecessary, unfunded mandates from Austin that tie the hands of our educators.

The state should set high standards, provide the tools for success and then get out of the way. We must allow principals to lead and manage, teachers to teach and parents to decide, ultimately, what’s in their child’s best interest.

As governor, I will establish genuine local control by giving school districts operational flexibility: Calendars and schedules, facilities, transportation, procurement and food and beverage services are best managed locally. School districts, in consultation with parents, should be permitted to exempt themselves from state mandates related to daily operations so they can be more responsive to the needs and aspirations of students and parents.

Parents need access to more information as an active partner in their child’s education. As governor, I will encourage parental engagement with transparency improvements that empower families to make meaningful choices. That begins with a Campus Report Card published on every school’s home page.

The Campus Report Card will include:

1. How the campus performs academically: Extending the newly adopted “A-F” rating system to the campus level

2. How each campus prepares the foundation for early learning: The percentage of enrolled K-5 students at grade level in reading and math

3. How much it is costing to get those results: Per-student spending compared to peer campuses

4. How many parents selected the campus as their first choice: Parents should be able to express their top three campus preferences within the district. Doing so will send a clear signal: Districts can use parental preference as an indication of which campuses may need improvement and take steps to do so.

If a school is not performing, families should not have to wait five years to demand action. Their children will have moved on, having already fallen behind. As governor, I will strengthen parents’ ability to petition the Commissioner of Education if a school is rated “F” for two consecutive years.

To cut through bureaucratic delays, I will recommend the creation of a Texas Achievement District. The Commissioner will have the option of moving the very worst-performing elementary schools into this district, with the flexibility to make the changes necessary to help students succeed.

Teachers are the most important partner in that success. I will give teachers more tools to develop their skills with Reading Achievement Academies, Math and Technology Achievement Academies and Reading-to-Learn Academies. I will increase support for proven programs attracting new college graduates to the teaching profession. And I will reward teachers with bonuses for encouraging more students to successfully earn early college credits through the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs, with added incentives for teachers in lower-rated districts.

And because great teachers work best with inspired principals, I propose advanced leadership training for public school principals.

We can — and will — help all the children of Texas, from the Rio Grande Valley to the Panhandle, achieve their dreams by providing educators with tools for success, empowering parents with information and choice, and building the best education system in America.

I invite you to read the second in my four-part Educating Texans Plan at http://townhall254.gregabbott.com/.

Republican Greg Abbott is attorney general for Texas. This column was written for The Monitor.

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